Come Rain or Shine……

Screen shot 2013-06-08 at 12.07.20Hi Everyone!

I’m hoping this first pic will go some way to explaining (and, hopefully, excuse!) my long silence. Getting ready for a new exhibition is always time-consuming – what with the sheer body of work one has to complete –  This year my chosen theme is ‘From the Sea’ and my studio has been filled with an ever-growing collection paintings:

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depicting everything from the peeling paint of old wooden fishing boats:

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and seashells:

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to soggy sponges:

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Add into the mix a constant stream of house guests, visitors and art students, a large, over-grown garden that desperately needs taming, a house with never-ending walls to white-wash (only to be washed away with yet another of the sudden downpours we’ve been experiencing lately!) a shaggy dog that needs constant attention not to mention exercising (and grooming!) and you’ll have some idea what my life has been like for the last couple of months (Gosh! THAT long? REALLY?!!)

Not that I’m complaining, of course! As I look out over my terrace at the sparkling blue sea, and breathe in the heady scent of wet earth after yet another  torrential downpour – and as the warm sun rises in a now impossibly clear blue sky, believe me, I know just how fortunate I am to be here on this beautiful little Greek island….as summer (finally!) gets underway. No more hearty stews and warming soups for me! My diet now consists of lots of healthy Greek salads, fresh fish:

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and, now that nectarines, apricots, local honey and hazelnuts have appeared in the only recently opened ‘out of town’ supermarkets, my favourite: yoghurt ‘specials’:

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Ever since my arrival, just in time for the Orthodox Easter at the end of April (a month later than back home) the  island has been slowly springing back to life in preparation for another busy summer ahead. Villas, hotels, restaurants and coffee shops have been undergoing their annual facelift, acres of walls have been repainted and land, beaches and kerbs, tidied. Now, at last, the cacophony of strimmers, drills and chain saws is beginning to fall silent . Despite the economic downturn, some very exciting new businesses have opened in Skiathos town this year. Among them ‘Ergon’, in the main street, a trendy new eatery and Deli (a la Mr Oliver) which wouldn’t look out-of-place in London’s West End:

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It even offers daily cooking classes which are proving to be very popular:

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Just opposite, ‘Ephemeris’ is a beautiful new store filled with fresh and exciting handmade creations: gifts, jewelery and objets d’art.

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Happily, many of the  familiar stores continue to survive, such as ‘Punendes ‘ where fine artist, Asia Bresan and her  husband:

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continue to delight and amaze with their fabulous and original hand painted designs on ceramic, stone and wood:

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Do beware of nearby shops selling cheap imitations though, all genuine pieces of Asia’s beautiful and original designs carry her own signature:

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Today is Friday and I’d know that even without looking at the calendar; simply by the sudden increase in traffic noise on the main road beyond my garden wall.  Today is the main ‘change-over’ day, when more than 16 charter flights will arrive and deposit hopeful, excited (and decidedly pale) tourists onto the steaming tarmac of our little airport runway…. before transporting a lesser amount of relaxed (and now decidedly bronzed) holiday makers back to reality…. and a constant stream of tour buses will hurtle past my gate, in both directions, overtaken only by the kamikaze taxi drivers who burn up and down the 12 k road like there’s no tomorrow….

But, thankfully by tomorrow, for a few days at least, ‘peace’ will resume: the beaches will be lined with book-reading, briefly clad bodies (thunderstorms permitting!) the tavernas will be emitting strains of bouzouki along with delicious aromas of Moussaka and Kleftico and, in the town, the tills in the tourist shops will, once again, be ringing up happily.

The only ones seemingly unfazed by this sudden population invasion are the dozens of swifts who presently soar through the skies regardless and dive-bomb down to their nests built high in every available nook and cranny, to feed their young. Even they have begun to bravely venture out on their first tentative flights……A sure sign that summer has indeed begun…….

It’s an exciting time; there will be old familiar faces to welcome back and lots of new acquaintances to be made, one of whom was a very familiar face from British television, Valerie Singleton (of ‘Blue Peter’ fame). A charming companion, she shared many a story of her incredibly interesting life with me over a glass of wine and were delighted to discover we had not only friends in common but the fact that we’d even attended the same school!

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At the same time, two dear friends from England, Gunilla and Pauline, paid me a long-promised visit and provided a welcome chance for me to down brushes and play ‘tourist’ myself for once. All together we laughed, lounged about and wined and dined at every opportunity:

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We explored the island and visited many of the then still relatively quiet beaches such as Mandraki:

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We even enjoyed a day trip on the ‘Mamma Mia!’ tour boat, visiting the neighbouring islands.

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First Skopelos with its now famous church perched on a rock, up 200+ very steep steps! (can’t believe Meryl Streep actually ran up them!):

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The view from the top revealed the clear turquoise waters below:

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Then it was on to the  charming old harbour town, the capital of the Sporades; Chora:

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with its maze of narrow cobbled and glorious bougainvillea clad streets:

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colourful pottery shops,  and surprisingly chic boutiques and waterfront cafes.

Photo opportunities awaited us around every corner:

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and I even managed a bit of sketching. The American owner of this charming old house suddenly appeared as I was working and bought it on the spot!

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Our last stop was Alonnissos where I left my friends to make the short bus trip up to the newly restored hilltop village and artists colony:

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while I took myself off to the local museum (visit www.alonissosmuseum.com). It is beautifully curated and well worth a visit, brimming as it is with social history: everyday domestic and professional artefacts from bygone days, memorabilia from both WWII and the days when Barbarossa and his fearsome pirates relentlessly besieged these islands, centuries before. Back on the Patitiri port, a favourite shop, ‘Loulaki’ (tel: +30 6977706209) which I thought had closed down but, thankfully, has only moved, was a happy re-discovery:

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Its friendly, welcoming owner, Claudia Tobias, continues to sell unique and beautiful items for the home, mind and body: including decorative antiques, natural herbal soaps (made locally) and exquisitely scented candles:

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A new art gallery, ‘Fayoum’, has also opened this year, showcasing the amazing works of acclaimed Alonissos-born artist and iconographer, Stamatoula Kalogianni (tel +30 6973040262).

Heading home, aboard the ‘Ag. Nikolas’ with Gunilla at the helm (under the watchful eye of Captain Kyriakos!):

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and with the excellent and informative commentary of our guide, Victoria Sandels, interspersed with strains of the ‘Mamma Mia!’ film soundtrack softly emanating from the ship’s speakers, we sleepily rode the gentle waves in the hope of seeing a dolphin or two as we passed through the Marine Park:

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Alas, this time we were to be disappointed…but nevertheless, three happy sailors had enjoyed a fabulous day :

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and, joined once again by Valerie,  we soon made up for any disappointment by enjoying an indulgent treat (gooey baklava and ice cream, drenched in syrup and calories!!)

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(have you ever seen more guilty looking faces?!!)

before early an evening Tsipouro (or two) and delicious meze, back in Skiathos’ old port:

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Classes began this year  with two very enthusiastic new students: a dear local friend, Magda (from Taverna Alexandros and Mustang Car Hire) and her lovely daughter, Kaliope:

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The first of my  past students to return this year was the delightful Ann:

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Having recently visited Cape Verde, she was keen to paint a memory of her trip while it was still fresh in her mind.

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The collage she completed during her week with me made a welcome change from the Skiathos scenes we usually tackle and, filled as it was with bright, vibrant and happy colours, it’s inspired me to add that exotic island off North Africa to my own ‘must visit’ list:

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Ann and I  also enjoyed a boat trip together, this time on board the ‘Calypso’ which sails daily around Skiathos island and over to Kati Georgi on Pelion (the mainland) about half an hour away.
This time were were joined by my dear friend the Irish artist Mary Dillon who was also revisiting Skiathos (for the 8th time!) – but, after a few days painting with me, and celebrating the full moon with cocktails (suitably named ‘Mamma Mia’s’)
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to the wonderful music of Derek Maroukian from the Vagabonds, at the ‘Cafe Del Mar’ in Megaliamos:
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Mary was joined by her friends and family from home.
The beautiful beach at Lalaria was our first stop:
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With its crystal clear, bright turquoise waters:
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and pristine white pebbles:
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Next, we called in at Kastro beach:
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with its hill-top fortress and rustic beach taverna made from driftwood, before enjoying a wonderful lunch altogether in the tiny bay at Kati Georgi:
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Visitors, of all varieties, expected and unexpected, come in many forms:
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Not always recognisable, though. Anyone know what this colourful creature below is?
(Update: I think I found it: possibly a Trichodes Favarius  from the Cleridae family. Can anyone confirm?)
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 This year I met friends of a previous student (Glass artist Carole Robinson of Kinghorn Glass Studio) from Scotland who were sailing around the Aegean on board their yacht ‘Selkie Dancer’ and called in to say hello:
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Even my husband surprised me with a spontaneous visit, just in time for my exhibition opening:
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and we spent a wonderful week together with friends from the UK who were visiting at the same time.
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It’s always sad to see family and good friends leave when their holidays eventually come to an end but, like a huge proportion of Skiathos’ annual visitors, they always return, many year after year…..and I take comfort from knowing they’ll all be back again before too long.
In the meantime, as the temperatures begin to rise, not even the odd thunderstorm or much-needed downpour can dampen the spirit.  The muse calls and island life continues at its unhurried pace……. Just like the weekly ‘Five Element Form’ Yoga* class I attend on Vromolimnos beach every Tuesday morning, it’s beautiful, serene, relaxing and totally revitalising…both spiritually and physically…..
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* You can learn about ‘Five Element form’ Yoga HERE
Skiathos is undoubtedly a very special place; a little corner of paradise on earth – ‘Come rain or shine’………

24 thoughts on “Come Rain or Shine……

  1. Thanks for another wonderful blog Yvonne, it left me quite exhausted! How you managed all that plus producing those beautiful paintings for the the exhibition, I have no idea – an amazing feat! So sorry not to be enjoying the delights of Skiathos and your company this year, but look forward to catching up next year. Jxx

    • Thanks so much Jacqui! I’m so sorry I missed you this year and I can’t wait to catch up and hear all about your Alonnissos adventure! Meanwhile, hope all’s well – and you’re having a great summer! For now, Much love to you – and Peter! Y xx

  2. Hi Yvonne, I thought you had been quiet but, knowing you….I kind of realised you would be busy, busy. Sorry we didn’t get longer to chat when we saw you but, as you know we hate to interupt family time. However, we did get to see your exhibition at the Princess and loved it…a great theme and although the pics on your blog look great, they do look so much more in reality. “Splash” looks so much more in person ;) Lovely to see your update and we really must make the effort to spend some more time in Alonissos. So far it has been a whistle stop and you lovely pics make me want to see some more. I think you have your beetle ID, sadly my insect book covers the uk which is ok for most things but, as you know ….there is always something different on the rock. I hope you find some time to have a rest in there somewhere ~ much Love ~ Chrissy X

    • Thanks So much, Chrissy (and SO sorry for taking this long to ‘approve’ your lovely comment!!)As, always, it’s so lovely to hear from you and although we didn’t get the chance to meet up this time – hopefully we will on the next one. I’ll look forward to it! For now, hope you’re enjoying the rest of the summer. Much love to you – and Andy too of course! Y xxxx

    • Thanks Phil! Gosh! You do get around – and to all the lovely places…can’t wait to hear all about it. Hope you and Barbara are well….enjoy the rest of the summer. xx

      • Thank you…we continue to try getting around and we did about 160 Km on foot mainly on the back-roads. Summer in the UK? It’s not happening…regards to Farouk too.

      • Thanks. 160k? Wow, that’s impressive!! Did you manage to get any paintings/sketches done? No summer? Darn….I’ve a few months back home to look forward to then…. xx

      • Got some 300 images most are potential paintings. the 15 Kg baggage allowance and my body exclude that painting on site & that blood donation to the wild-life!

      • Lo! You’re a wise man….digital references are the modern artists best friend…We lose enough sweat and tears in the creative process, why, indeed, give of our blood too! (the little horrors certainly are out in force this year!!) x

    • The little swine’s were not bothered by 40% DEET backed up with Lemon Eucalyptus Oil…My favourite personal fragrance was lost in the fog! Eating out was a bit of “waiter there’s a fly in my soup”…what only one sir?
      But we loved it all.

  3. I was wondering what you were up to. You cannot just strand us like this you know.
    Just love the work you are putting together for the exhibition too. I know it will go well.
    Will catch up some time, I just know.
    XXE

  4. Wow just been thinking “I’ve not seen a blog from Yvonne, in a while” and here you are. Perhaps I really should be thinking “I’ve not won the lottery in a while”!!!!! Seriously I really need to come up and finally meet you properly.. roll on September and hopefully we may see you then x

    • LOL!! Well when you do…. just remember I’m one of your best-est friends, OK?
      Seriously though, thanks Michelle and yes, I do hope you’ll drop by on your next visit. When in September? (I won’t be back till around the 19th/20th – hope I don’t miss you) Y xx

  5. Wow, this is Greece at it’s best … in my book. Food, views, colors, flowers … friendliness, vibrant, happy … fun, sun, oceans and art. Both the fish and the fruit salad – would do for me today. I truly love this post.

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